Entertainment » Music

Melissa Etheridge: 'This is M.E.'

by Kayla Miller
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 10, 2015
Melissa Etheridge: 'This is M.E.'

They come, usually in pairs. They come from California, Utah, Arizona. They follow her religiously, though of course there are some more zealous than others.

There is a constant trickle of them walking through the dusky Palms' parking lot the night of Friday, August 7. Women, that is; many queer. My girlfriend and I are among them, another pair of women trekking to see Melissa Etheridge's "This is M.E." tour.

As an artist who's been in the spotlight for nearly 30 years (her first album, "Melissa Etheridge," was released in 1988 and "Bring Me Some Water" was nominated for a Grammy in 1989), Etheridge has earned her following of devotees. During her Las Vegas solo show, she introduces one song, "Que Sera, Sera," by saying she never plays it, although it is always requested by "one of her biggest fans." Here, she points to a man in the audience, front row. Laughing, she qualifies and says, "maybe like my third or fourth biggest fan. Definitely in my top four fans."

That Etheridge has such a hardcore fanbase isn't news to me: my older sister counts herself as one of them, a fan since she was a teenager in the late '80s and '90s. Entering the Pearl Theater to see what will be my third ever Etheridge concert, I realize I've listened to her music my entire life; it would've been impossible, growing up with my sister, to not absorb at least some of her fervor. This show differs from the other times I've seen her, though, and for good reason: "This is M.E." is Etheridge and Etheridge alone, performing without a band or any accompanying instruments -- no drum sets, no bass guitars.

The Pearl Theater's stage is set with nine guitars, two of which are double-neck guitars, at least four lava lamps, one gnome, two hand drums, a tambourine, a harmonica and a grand piano. All for Etheridge. When she walks out, the show opens with her explaining: "This is me. It's just me. It's all about me. I've found that things in my life go best when I put myself first and take care of myself."

The women moving in hoards through the parking lot and casino floor would tell you, as my older sister has emphatically told me numerous times, that "Melissa rocks." Watching Etheridge swap guitars mid-riff, move from a grand piano cover of Joan Armatrading's "The Weakness in Me" to a feverish harmonica solo to a drum loop and back again, it's clear why. "This is M.E." incorporates new songs, such as "Like a Preacher" and "Monster," alongside classic hits and some deep tracks.

After three hours of playing without an opening act or band, Etheridge encores for at least twenty minutes. When the show ends, my girlfriend and I join the masses of women (and some men) journeying back to the casino floor, back to the Palms' parking lot, back to their lives. Two women in their forties walk a few paces ahead of us; when they hear me singing "Like the Way I Do," they turn. One says, "Doesn't she just rock?!" When I respond with, "Yes, this is my third time seeing her and she's always awesome," I am quickly trumped. "This is my third time seeing her this week," the woman says back.

Undoubtedly, Etheridge is a musical icon: a Grammy- and Oscar-winning artist who's had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame since 2011. As she opened "This is M.E.," Etheridge asked the audience, "Las Vegas, how's your summer? Still in love?" Saying goodnight to these women, I think over the show -- Etheridge's not-quite-cocky swagger, that powerhouse voice, the selfie she took with the audience, her obvious sex appeal and the sweat written into her songs, new and old -- and it's not a difficult question to answer. Yes, still in love.

Melissa Etheridge played on Aug. 7 at the Palms Casino Resort, 4321 W Flamingo Rd., Las Vegas. "This is M.E." has dates in the United States through November 11. For more information, visit www.melissaetheridge.com

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